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4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, 16 Jul 2012
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Product details

  • Audio CD (16 July 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cadiz Music Ltd
  • ASIN: B008CNG4UW
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,685 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

"Hatchling is the boldly imaginative second album from Emily Portman, one of the UK folk scene s most beguiling presences (Uncut). Having established a name for herself with her twice BBC Folk Award nominated debut The Glamoury (2010), the richly emotive and often understated rawness of Hatchling presents a blossoming of Emily s intricate songwriting while nodding to her traditional roots.

The darker sounds of myth, magic and antiquity are heard murmuring beneath the surface of an inventive and distinctly contemporary sound. Drawing from lullabies, English broadsides and apple-tree wassails, Hatchling enters a carnivalesque world of fallen angels, and fantastical metamorphosis, set against a backdrop of England s cities, shores and woodlands. Emily s trio (with rising stars Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell) provides harp and bewitching close-harmonies. Guests include critically acclaimed songwriter Alasdair Roberts, cellist Lucy Deakin (Methera) and guitarist Jonny Kearney (Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell).

The title track `Hatchlings introduces fresh new sounds to Emily s distinctive voice: mesmerizing banjos and ringing bells accompany interweaving strings and harmonies that tell the tale of Leda and her egg-hatched twins. Hollin , a bold and majestic ode to the joys of wild living mixes numerous layers of harp, guitar and dark strings with a chorus of otherworldly harmonies. A tipsy, carnivalesque edge creeps into Emily s folk-noir style with Hinge of the Year , an intoxicating New-Year s tale inspired by Angela Carter s burlesque character Fevers in Nights at the Circus. Ash Girl is a haunting take on the fairytale of Ashputtle with skeletal accompaniment gradually fleshed out by eerie humming and the dark sound of bowed cymbals. The bright and quirky Old Mother Eve is a subversive retelling of the myth of Adam and Eve, presenting Emily s own writing sitting at home beside Apple-tree wassails. Jack , Sleeping Beauty and Scorching Sun present Emily s writing at its most daringly raw and exposed, with tales of shipwreck, war and sleeping love. Fragmentary tales of mermaids, sea-goddesses and submerged cities surface in `Sunken Bells , a song driven by sirenic voices, enchanting harp and banjos. Three unaccompanied lullaby extracts provide dramatic contrast to the layered complexity of the album; recorded live and unadorned Hushabye Birdie , Silver Swan and Black Sheep are a nod to Emily s roots in folk song, nurtured during her years singing with Waterson: Carthy on their Frost and Fire tours. Hatchling closes with a tender lullaby for world-weary grown-ups, showing the Emily Portman trio at the height of their powers, singing in unaccompanied harmony.

Hatchling rounds off a whirlwind year for Emily, with The Glamoury earning her widespread critical acclaim, international airplay, Mojo and fRoots top ten Folk albums of the year, not to mention a packed schedule of UK tours and festivals. 2011 has seen Emily become well known for her lyrical and beautiful voice (Songlines) and bewitching live performances."

BBC Review

A tale of wicked stepmothers and dubious meat pies, Emily Portman’s Stick Stock – from her 2010 debut album The Glamoury – was a brilliantly dizzy fairytale. Its dark comic genius deservedly bagged a BBC Folk Awards nomination.

On second album Hatchling, Portman spins similar stories. Themes of heady mythology dominate, with doves pecking at breasts, wild wolves at doors and deranged goddesses aplenty.

Eight of these fables are self-penned. Opener Hatchlings is the best. A powerful song rooted in the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Portman portrays the new mother of egg-hatched twins with fearful pride. The banjo on the track is quietly unsettling, perfectly matching the song’s paradoxical themes of maternal instinct and revulsion.

Also exemplary on this album are three fragmentary interludes of ancient lullaby – Hushabye Birdie, Silver Swan and, especially, Black Sheep. All are unaccompanied, and Portman’s pure vocals mesh with two other fine singers, Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton. Their voices work in an almost primeval way; the witches of Macbeth could hardly sound eerier. The longer traditional, Hollin, also has something of this chant atmosphere, albeit one textured with harp and strings.

Unfortunately, Portman’s traditional interpretations highlight the diminishing returns of her own songs as the album wears on. Themes get repetitive, especially when taken in the context of her first album. The carnivalesque literature of Angela Carter is an acknowledged influence, but while Portman’s lyrics offer similar imagery, they lack Carter’s radical bite.

Portman simply comes across as too darn nice. It’s a problem that seeps into her delivery and arrangements, too. The words may tell of “vodka, and wine, and blood in the gutters,” but it sounds as if Portman would rather have a cup of tea and an early night.

This is an album, sadly, that shows little growth from her debut. Portman’s concerns are not developed enough for true conceptual unity, nor do they offer a satisfying diversity. What’s left is a frustrating piece, an album that – despite its lyrical claims to the contrary – watches the giddy lights of the fairground from a safe distance.

--Chris Power

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21 May 2013
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